In 2007's Oscar-winning thriller No Country for Old Men, Javier Bardem stormed across Texas as one of the most fearsome villains in film history—a big, bad wolf who could huff, puff, and blow down any house in his path. Even though it's a relief to see Bardem escape that horrible haircut and slip into some stylish shirts in Woody Allen's new "erotic comedy," Vicky Cristina Barcelona, it's tough to shake the memory of that indelible, terrifying performance.
And there may be a good explanation for that. After all, despite Bardem's impressive good looks, he's still playing the wolf. This time, he's even more dangerous—as Juan Antonio, he's a well-dressed wolf who gets women huffing and puffing with desire, whether they're promiscuous or principled. He's a devil who inspires his victims to enjoy, and even volunteer for, their own destruction.
Even Woody Allen seems enamored of this Latin lothario. He paints the ruination of these women in such romantic colors that, if we aren't smart enough, we'll end up falling for the seduction ourselves. Vigilant viewers will notice the pleasure that Allen seems to find in illustrating gullible, self-destructive women. And as he exploits the warm glow of Barcelona's art galleries and streetscapes, the natural beauty of the film's four gorgeous actresses, and Juan Antonio's Don-Juan charm, he makes Vicky Cristina Barcelona a dangerously seductive picture.
Newcomer Rebecca Hall plays the beautiful and somewhat-sensible Vicky, who is engaged to an off-puttingly practical young man named Doug (Cris Mesina, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Steve Gutenberg). Vicky's a graduate student developing an M.A. thesis on Catalan culture, so she's happy to accept an invitation to ...1